A week and a half ago, I twisted my ankle while working out, and from somewhere inside my foot came the unmistakable (even if one has never heard it before) sound of a bone-crunch.
Pertinent to this anecdote is the detail that I am absurdly stubborn and ridiculous when it comes to bodily injury. I am capable of healing all that is in my body with my mind, and if I’m not, an Epsom salt bath will be is my guiding mantra. Don’t talk about it, don’t focus on it, don’t tell lots of people about it (via one’s blog), or it will expand in importance. Concentrate on healing, make like you are fine, and you soon will be.
So, naturally, I taped the foot up and carried on, defying defeat.
On the following Monday, my best attempts to conceal a limp from my doctor-client failing miserably, I heeded her advice and headed for a doctor of my own.
When a loving, caring individual who, themselves, is trusting your guidance, suggests that your approach to medical care might not be wisest in the long run (a.k.a. cockamamie and irresponsible) you acknowledge it might be time to admit your way isn’t working.
So I made like an adult and submitted myself to the x-rays which confirmed that the snap-crackle-popping over the weekend had, in fact, been the bone in my foot fracturing.
The good doctor bid his adieus after breaking the news, and ushered in his stead a nurse to fit me for a boot. I watched as she unharnessed the length of its many Velcro straps, bowled over by the height of the thing, entirely unappreciative of her ski-boot comparison. I did as I was told and slid my heel into the furthest reaches of the beast, the lump in my throat swelling with each Velcro strap she secured.
I hobbled the length of so many corridors back down to the parking garage feeling as though my life-momentum had been unceremoniously quashed. I was a car with a boot on it trying to drive. I was a small child trying to swim with a tire big enough to be swing. I was going to cry. It was definitely going to happen.
My mind was spinning, desperately trying to decode the situation in order to see the bigger lesson. Maybe it wouldn’t have been had I not gotten into a car accident a handful of week’s prior. Surely I was meant to be reading these events. They must have been trying to tell me that I needed to slow down, or that I was bad, or not careful enough. And why did things like this keep happening? Because I hadn’t yet made the changes I was supposed to! Because I hadn’t sufficiently addressed some horrible, lurking flaw, surely. This was my fault. I had brought it on myself. To punish myself. For being flawed! But I want to be good! I thought. I want to learn the lesson! I am paying attention, I swear!
A block out of the parking garage, now in full-cry mode, I pulled over and dialed my dad. And this is what this story is actually about, because miraculously, he answered.
”Dad? Can you talk?” I blubbered.
”Yeah, baby,” he said.
“I was just fitted for a boot which is longer than my leg because I fractured my foot and I just keep thinking that—-“
He listened to my tears, and held my self-pity and my striving.
”You know, Arianne, we have a saying in psychology about Freud,” he said. “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.Sometimes a foot is just a foot.I think you’re attaching too much meaning to this.”
”Oh.” I breathed. “Oh. Whoa. Okay. A foot is just a foot.”
To get why this stopped me in my tracks you have to understand that this was coming from the man who’d always insisted on the importance of serving the greater meaning. Yet here he was, telling me a cigar was just a cigar.
And just like that, everything was fine. I stopped being upset. I adopted a different attitude about the boot, namely: marginal annoyance.
For as much work as we must do to look for the learning, there are times when the lesson is that there is no deeper lesson. And not to put so much pressure on ourselves. And that accidental life circumstances, by their very name, imply the conditions with which they are brought about.
That’s what this story is about. It’s about a cigar being a cigar, and a foot being a foot, and car being a car, and a whatever your thing is being whatever your thing is.
Sometimes, things just are, and the most insightful thing we can do is not to give those things more meaning and importance than they deserve. That was, after all, my intent to begin with.